Norway’s proliferating whaling industry has made it the world’s leader in the trade at the expense of the minke whale. To make matters worse, ninety percent of the minke whales killed are female and “almost all” of them are pregnant, according to a Norwegian documentary that aired earlier in March.

Despite an international ban on commercial whaling, Norway has continued the practice. The documentary Slaget om kvalen, or Battle of Agony, was shown on NRK, the government’s broadcasting company and depicted Norway’s modern-day whaling industry. In one particular scene, a fisherman is shown cutting open a whale and removing its fetus. 

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“Whale hunting is now even more unacceptable,” Truls Gulowsen, the head of Greenpeace Norway, told AFP in response to the footage. “On the one hand, because it’s in violation of an international ban but also because its indefensible from the point of view of the animal’s well being to them during an advanced stage of gestation.”

RTR26OTO A minke whale is seen swimming during a ride on the Les Ecumeurs boat on the St. Lawrence river at Les Escoumins, Quebec, Aug. 13, 2009. Norway's whaling industry targets mostly female, pregnant minke whales. Photo: Reuters

Fishermen who partake in the industry seemed unfazed by the killing of pregnant whales.

“We have a professional approach and therefore we don’t think about it,” Dag Myklebust, the captain and harpooner on the whaling ship Kato, told NRK, adding that pregnancy is a plus because it's “a sign of good health.”

Minkes, a small species of whale, were historically ignored by whalers because they were considered too small to be of value. In Norway and elsewhere, fisherman began turning to minkes as a replacement when larger whale supplies were depleted by the industry. 

Norway has a self-imposed quota for how many whales it must kill each year. In 2017, that number was 999, up from 880 in 2016.  The whales are hunted for meat, which sells as a tourist attraction and for pet food. 

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“The hunts rely on state subsidies and the new government is constantly searching for new markets to exploit, with young people and tourists being major markets,” Whale and Dolphin Conservation said on its website. “Norway has aggressively sought to retain its right to hunt whales despite it being unnecessary, uneconomical and unquestionably cruel.” 

In continuing to hunt whales, whalers in Norway have blatantly disregarded the International Whaling Commissions 1986 ban on commercial whaling. The nation has also repeatedly tried to overturn the ban on commercial trade in whale products imposed by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora, according to a joint report by the Animal Welfare Institute, OceanCare and Pro Wildlife released in 2014.